If the city of Oakdale is going to dig its way out from under some poor spending decisions made before the Great Recession, voters must pass Measure Y. The Bee supports the extension of Oakdale’s half-cent sales tax; we hope voters agree.
But that doesn’t mean we like using sales taxes to fund normal functions of cities – paying salaries, funding retirements, etc. As we point out in our companion editorial, we would prefer elected leaders find other ways to fund services and pay for priorities.
Here’s what Oakdale residents must consider as they weigh Measure Y:
• This isnot
a dedicated tax, meaning it can be spent on anything city staff proposes and the City Council approves. We have faith that City Manager Bryan Whitemyer will spend the money wisely and as he promises. We also have faith the oversight committee, chaired by Scott Hogg, will make sure the money is put where promised – 90 percent on public safety.
• This is a quality-of-life issue. Many things enter into that equation beyond how many cops are patrolling the streets – from fully staffed firehouses to working streetlights to a dispatch center that knows the streets, parks and alleys. Without the continued sales tax revenue, amounting to about $1.5 million per year, all of that is in jeopardy.
• Oakdale already has made substantial cuts to its staff, going from 54 administrative positions in 2007 to 25 in 2013. Without the tax, the city must make more cuts; that means cutting services.
• Out-of-towners buying gas, groceries or meals on their way to Yosemite will help, providing roughly 16 percent of the additional revenues.
Even as they weigh the issues, Oakdale voters must recognize that as their city grows it will change. Some of what they love about it will disappear, and some things they might not like (no grocery stores on the west side of town, for instance) will improve. But without this tax, most of those changes will be for the worse.